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Tactical shift revitalized WSOC season

Marquette+Women%27s+Soccer+vs.+Seton+Hall
Marquette Women's Soccer vs. Seton Hall

Marquette Women's Soccer vs. Seton Hall

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Marquette Women's Soccer vs. Seton Hall

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One month ago Marquette women’s soccer went to Creighton and blew a two-goal lead for the third game in a row, coming up short in a 3-2 overtime loss.

During that three-game stretch the offense had suddenly come to life, but the defense was sputtering. 11 games into the season the Golden Eagles had yet to earn a shutout and the old cliche that a two-goal lead is the worst lead in soccer was starting to look like fact.

Next up was a home contest against Seton Hall and it came with a big shift in the lineup. Redshirt sophomore Ryley Bugay was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Caroline Fink, Liz Bartels moved up the field to a forward position and Darian Powell became the starter in the attacking midfield. These three moves completely changed the direction of Marquette’s season.

Bugay slotted in next to Morgan Proffitt in defensive midfield, creating a shield in front of the defense. This allowed Proffitt, the strongest midfielder in the BIG EAST, to roam around the midfield breaking up attacks before they start.

Since adding Bugay to the mix, the Golden Eagles have allowed just four goals in seven games, picking up four shutouts in that time. In the previous 11 games the team allowed 18 goals. Two of the goals scored against the new look defense came from top-10 Georgetown, and the other two were rather fluky. Suddenly, Marquette has one of the stingiest defenses in the BIG EAST.

Oftentimes a formational shift like this trades offense for defense, but in this case the change produced more reliable possession, allowing the offense to flow naturally. The other important move was adding Darian Powell to the midfield and moving Liz Bartels forward. Powell, who spent most of the season working her way back to full health, led the team in goals the past two seasons as a traditional hold up striker, but her skills translate to central midfield well. She became the link between the defense and the offense.

Playing Powell in “the hole” allowed Bartels to move to the front line, where she’s thriving. The senior is one of the premier on-ball players in the conference, taking on defenders with shifty moves and tight dribbling. As a forward, she has the opportunity to run at defenders more frequently and she starts higher up the field with the ball. Bartels has scored two goals and notched two assists in the seven games since the move after scoring just one goal in the previous 11 matches. Her form continues to improve, as she was the most dangerous player on the field in each of the last two contests.

“This formation really helps us connect better. She (Bartels) likes to go forward more and dribble, dribble, I like to create and shoot and stuff like that,” Powell said. “It really works to our strengths.”

Head coach Markus Roeders is 6-1 since he shook things up, rising to second place in the BIG EAST. In a matter of three and a half weeks, his team has gone from NCAA bubble team to near at-large bid lock in. On Friday night they have a chance to earn a share of the BIG EAST regular season crown and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament when they host first-place DePaul. If Marquette maintains this level of play the Blue Demons will be in trouble.

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